Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Modeling College and Career Readiness for Adolescents with and without Disabilities: A Bifactor Approach

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Modeling College and Career Readiness for Adolescents with and without Disabilities: A Bifactor Approach

Article excerpt

Adolescents with and without disabilities must be college and career ready to be prepared to engage in adult life, and recent policy efforts confirm this prioritization (Mishkind, 2014). Even so, as many as 75% of students lack the necessary academic preparation to enroll and succeed in credit-bearing postsecondary courses (ACT, Inc., 2012; Camara, 2013). This issue is further complicated by the multiple definitions, frameworks, and models of college and career readiness (CCR) that emphasize academic and nonacademic skills that are deemed important for employment, postsecondary education, or both (e.g., College and Career Readiness and Success Center, 2014; Conley, 2010; Farrington et al., 2012; Mishkind, 2014). Further, mounting evidence shows students with disabilities have poorer postschool outcomes than their peers without disabilities (Sanford et al., 2011), such as higher course failure and dropout rates (Doren, Murray, & Gau, 2014; National Center for Education Statistics, 2012, see Indicator 33) and fewer opportunities to receive an academically rigorous curriculum in high school (Gregg, 2007), and they self-report using fewer critical thinking skills (Lombardi, Kowitt, & Staples, 2015). Together, these findings demonstrate a persistent problem that all students do not receive adequate preparation for college and careers and that, for students with disabilities, this issue is even more pronounced. It is therefore crucial that high schools adequately prioritize CCR and ensure these opportunities are offered schoolwide to all students, with and without disabilities.

The purpose of this study was to empirically test an emerging framework of CCR for adolescents with and without disabilities (Morningstar, Lombardi, Fowler, & Test, 2017) with the objective to clarify a measurement model that could guide the implementation of a multitiered system of support (MTSS) for CCR. In this study, measures that map onto the CCR framework were selected and administered to adolescents with and without disabilities across 13 urban and suburban high schools. Following data collection, latent variable modeling was employed to clarify a measurement model of CCR. The results of this study inform the application of a MTSS framework for CCR by providing an option for schoolwide data collection and decision making.

A Framework of CCR

Typically, CCR is measured with high school achievement indicators, such as grade point average and college admissions exam scores. Yet, the predominant indicators of CCR do not sufficiently align with the knowledge and skills that first-year college students need in order to be successful in entry-level courses (R. S. Brown & Conley, 2007). Researchers agree there are multiple multifaceted skills that are more nonacademic by definition (College and Career Readiness and Success Center, 2014; Conley, 2010; Farrington et al., 2012), and some of these nonacademic skills are positively related to higher achievement (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007; Lombardi et al., 2015; West et al., 2016). As such, it is crucial to include nonacademic skills in CCR definitions, models, and frameworks.

Adhering to the urgency around nonacademic skills of CCR and building on the work from researchers outside of special education, Morningstar, Lombardi, Fowler, and Test (2017) developed a six-domain organizing framework of CCR that emphasizes skills both academic and nonacademic skills: academic engagement, mind-sets, learning processes, critical thinking, interpersonal engagement, and transition competencies. This framework is meant to be applied in an inclusive, schoolwide manner, applicable to students with and without disabilities. However, although these researchers conducted a preliminary qualitative study to shape the six domains, the CCR framework has not yet been empirically validated.

CCR Within Multitiered Systems of Support

Lombardi and colleagues (2015) called for the application of MTSS as an implementation framework for CCR in high schools for all students, including those with disabilities. …

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